Adl, Justice of God
This was a short sketch of our belief in Allah. Now we come to the second Root of Religion and that is "Justice of Allah." Frankly speaking, this root of religion is the most important one to study, if anybody wants to know the real and basic difference between Sunnis and Shi'ah Ithna `Asharis. So far as the existence and Unity of God is concerned, it comes under the First Root `tawhid," that is, "The Unity of God." But the actions of Allah come under this second root; and here the differences are vast and manifold: Here I propose to show the differences in a few words:
i) First and foremost difference is that while certain Muslim sects hold that nothing is good or evil by itself; and only what Allah has commanded us to do, is good; what He has forbidden is evil. The Ithna `Asharis on the other hand, believe that irrespective of religious commandments, there is real merit or demerit in different courses of action, and it is because a certain thing is good that. God commands us to do it; and because the other thing is bad that lie forbids it.
ii) Stemming from the above mentioned difference is the fact that the Shiahs believe that Allah never acts aimlessly; i.e. without any purpose or design. All His actions are based on wisdom and intelligent purpose, though we may not know them. The Sunnis on the other hand, say that there is no real demerit in acting aimlessly, and if Allah does anything without purpose, the mere act of Allah will make that action good.
iii) The Shi'ah Ithna `Asharis say that if a person can do good to any other person and he does not do it, it is against the virtue. Likewise, they say that if Allah can do anything beneficial to His creatures and then, suppose that, He does not do it, it will be against Virtues of Allah and not commendable. Therefore, the Ithna `Asharis say that: "It is morally incumbent upon Allah to do every act of Grace dealing with mankind."
Here is a quotation from our book of beliefs: "By Grace is understood that action on the part of Allah which would help to bring His creatures nearer to His devotion and obedience and facilitate their moral correction (which is) morally incumbent on Him i.e. GOD. Allah has commanded us to be just, while He Himself treats us with something better, namely Grace (tafaddul). Justice (al-adl), means that He requites a good act with a good reward and an evil act with a punishment. The Prophet said: `No man ever enters Paradise by virtue of his good actions alone except by the Mercy of Allah.' " (I`tiqadatu 'l-Imamiyyah, by ash-Shaykh as-Saduq)
The Sunnis, on the other hand, do not believe that lulf i.e. Grace is incumbent on Allah. They say that even adl, i.e. Justice, is not incumbent on Allah, even if He sends good and virtuous persons to Hell, it will be quite right.
iv) Then comes the most vital difference between Ithna `Asharis and Sunnis, i.e. the question of jabr' (compulsion) and `ikhtiyar' (choice). The position of Sunnis in this respect, according to general belief, is that: "No act of any individual, even though it be done purely for his benefit, is independent of the will of Allah, for its existence; and there does not occur in either the physical or the extraterrestrial world the wink of an eye, the hint of a thought, or the most sudden glance, except by the decree of Allah, of His power, desire and will. This includes, evil and good, benefit and harm, success and failure, sin and righteousness, obedience and disobedience, polytheism and true belief." (al-Ghazzali).
We the Ithna `Asharis on the other hand say that we know the difference between falling down from a roof-top and coming down by ladders. The second act is done by our power, will and intention; while the falling down is not done so. And we know that our own actions are not like falling down from a roof-top; but they are like climbing down with our own will and power. Therefore, they are our acts and they cannot be attributed to Allah.
Again we see that we are praised or blamed for some of our acts, while for other acts we are neither praised nor condemned. It means that the first category comes within our power and will; and the second is beyond our power and will. We may be advised to treat our ailments in such and such a way, but we cannot be advised to recover from the illness. It means that getting treatments is within our power; but getting recovered is not within our sphere of activities.
Therefore, we say that there are many things and aspects of life that are within our own power and will, while some are not within our power. Those things about which we can be ordered to do or not to do, for which we can be advised, for which we can be praised or blamed, all those acts are within our power and will. And as the commandments of religion come under this category, therefore, it is wrong to say that our sins or righteousness, our obedience or disobedience or polytheism or true belief, are by the decree of Allah. Therefore it has been written in the book of our creed that: "Allah possesses fore-knowledge of human actions, but does not compel mankind to act in any particular manner. When Allah will collect His servants on the Day of Resurrection, He will ask them concerning what He had enjoined on them and will not question them concerning what He had destined for them.".